Why You Should Clean Your Computer

Admit it: cleaning your computer isn’t on your regular to do list, if it even makes the list at all.  But, it’s one of the most important things you can do to improve performance and extend the life of your computer.

Whether you have a desktop, laptop or both, here are things you’ll need to get your computer free of grime and dust.

  • Can of compressed air
  • Flat-tip and/or Phillips screwdriver
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Cotton swabs (Don’t use a cotton ball, because they can leave debris)
  • Cloths (Lint-free, paper towels, anti-static cloths)
  • Water

Important notes before you start: Make sure your computer is turned off, and that it’s disconnected from the power source.  Also, check your computer’s warranty before removing any covers or back plates. Doing so may void any existing warranties.

When you’re ready to clean your computer, you’ll want to start on the inside.  For a desktop computer, there are many ways to remove the outside cover.  Most modern desktop computers will use around two fasteners for the rear cover, two push button-style fasteners, or use Phillips screws for the rear or side cover.  When in doubt, refer to your computer’s owner’s manual.

For laptop computers, place the computer upside down on a flat surface.  To avoid scratching the computer, you may want to place a towel or something soft on the table.  Remove the battery first, then look for the vents for the cooling fan.  Remove the screws, and remember where each screw goes.  You may need a smaller Phillips screwdriver to complete this task.

Once you get inside your desktop or laptop, try to touch as little as possible.  Use your compressed air to clean out any dust or debris.  Be careful when using compressed air on the vent fan, and use short air bursts to clean it. For larger dust debris inside the computer, use Tweezers or a cotton swab to safely remove them.   Lastly, blow compressed air into the CD/DVD drives and large ports, aiming the air so it blows the debris out of, not into the computer.  You should also use a lightly damp cloth to wipe down the trays of the drive.

Now move to the outside of the computer.  Use rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab to clean around all the computer’s openings. Flip the swab over and use the dry end to finish.

Now comes the keyboard. Flip the keyboard/laptop over and lightly shake it.  A lot of the crumbs and debris will most likely fall out.  Use compressed air to clean out any remaining debris.  Next, take a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol and clean the tops and sides of the keys. Don’t be afraid to use a lot of swabs.  Once one starts to get dirty, switch to a new one. It should be noted that you shouldn’t use a vacuum to clean your keyboard or laptop, as it can create a static electricity buildup.

Now you’ll clean your monitor.  For a glass screen monitor, use a glass cleaner to clean the screen, unless the manufacturer recommends differently. For an LCD laptop or flat-panel display, use a lightly dampened lint-free cloth.  Spray the cloth, not the screen, and lightly rub the screen to clean it. You could also use a computer monitor cleaner, which can be found at computer retail and supply stores.

Finally, you’ll come the mouse or touch screen. First, we’ll focus on the mouse. Disconnect the mouse from the computer. Rub the top and sides of the mouse with a paper towel dipped in rubbing alcohol.  Remove any grime buildup with a fingernail.  If you have an optical mouse, be sure that the optical lens is clear of dirt and debris.  For a mechanical, ball-style mouse, remove the ball and use compressed air to clean out the area.  To clean the ball, wash it with water and let it dry.

Article adapted from an original post that appeared on the Microsoft at Home website.